Meadville Tribune

September 19, 2013

Call out for Make A Difference Day volunteers

By Konstantine Fekos
Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — Make A Difference Day organizers striving to help as many people as possible on their annual day of community service say more projects can be scheduled if more volunteers sign on early.

United Way of Western Crawford County personnel report MADD volunteers complete an average of about 120 to 130 projects for the area’s needy each year.

“We usually don’t see a huge avalanche of volunteers to push beyond that,” said Amy Rectenwald, local United Way executive director. “It’s not a bad average, but we’d rather take on more (projects).”

Despite MADD’s large geographic scope and significant community impact, volunteers tend to wait until right before deadline to sign up, Rectenwald observed.

“We’re not getting very many (volunteer) forms in at all,” said Jocelyn Windahl, an AmeriCorps VISTA. “And the deadline for volunteer forms is Sept. 30.”

Windahl hopes the 20th annual MADD will turn out the usual 1,000 or more volunteers who rise up each year to meet the high volume of project requests.

“The more volunteers we have, the more projects we can do in one day and the more people can be helped,” she said.

Volunteers can start helping immediately by signing up as early as possible.

The sooner volunteer numbers are confirmed, the sooner MADD organizers can assign skilled volunteers to assess large-scale projects which may require minor construction, landscaping, carpentry and more.

Teams from local businesses, schools and civic groups are expected to participate, Rectenwald said, but individuals are encouraged to do their part as well.

“(MADD) makes a huge impact on western Crawford County in terms of service,” Windahl said. “Volunteers can do simple stuff like raking leaves or cleaning windows while skilled volunteers can build ramps and do more complex home repairs.”

Determining which volunteers to match with certain projects is one of the biggest jobs in the planning stage, according to Rectenwald.

“For example, the more people we have in advance, the more larger-scale projects we can do,” she said.

Additionally, the number of volunteers eventually helps determine how many materials and supplies are needed for approved projects, something that has to be figured out in advance.

In an effort to smooth out the volunteer process, the local United Way made online application available on its website,

Volunteers can sign up in teams or individually using the appropriate registration links.

“We perfect the planning process every year; make it a little smoother,” Windahl said. “I think (MADD) will go well. It gets better each time.”

MADD is a collaborative effort of the United Way of Western Crawford County, Meadville Medical Center, Allegheny College and other organizations.

Volunteers will work on half-day or day-long projects for the less fortunate around Crawford County.

You can help

Make A Difference Day is Oct. 19 from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Volunteers are also asked to call 724-5948 by Sept. 30 to register their teams and be assigned a project. Upon registering, volunteers are asked to meet in Diamond Park, Meadville, by 7:30 a.m. and participate in a project until noon. For more information, call the United Way of Western Crawford County, 415 Chestnut St., Meadville, at 337-1251 or visit Donations of extra materials, including paint, construction materials, brushes, gloves, rakes, hammers, ladders, wood, shovels, etc., may be made to the local United Way.

Need help?

Residents of western Crawford County who have projects they’d like to have reviewed by Make A Difference Day crews can call the hotline through Wednesday at 724-5948 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Organizers would like to note that roofing projects will not be accepted this year and there is limited capacity for any new skilled projects such as ramps or significant home repairs due to the existing list of projects. They also stress that submitting a project doesn’t guarantee work will be done.